Combustible Celluloid Interview - Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach
Combustible Celluloid

Interview: Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach

A 'Ha' Day's Night

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

May 23, 2013—The Academy Award nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) met actress Greta Gerwig when he cast her in his film Greenberg. Now, not only are they a romantic item, but they have entered into a most fruitful working relationship.

Together, they co-authored the wonderful screenplay for the new film Frances Ha, which recently played at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival and opens Friday in theaters.

Baumbach directs, and Gerwig stars as Frances, a charming, optimistic, scatterbrained apprentice at a New York dance school, whose world falls apart when her best friend and roomie moves out.

She goes through a year's worth of temporary apartments -- including a short Christmas break in Sacramento with her parents (played by Gerwig's real mom and dad).

Baumbach says that the movie is intended like a pop song: catchy, fun, and a little sad, and hopefully you want to play it again right away.

"The script had this musical rhythm to it," says Baumbach, who attended the film festival with Gerwig.

"It seemed to have this loping quality," Gerwig says, "where there'd be lots of little pieces and then there'd be a long scene. It just sort of seemed to be the pace we were settling into as we were writing it."

The other key to the scenes is that they rarely contain a beginning, middle, and end.

"The answer to every scene is the next scene. You don't need the reaction, because you're going to get it in the next," says Baumbach.

Writing the script, Gerwig and Baumbach began by gathering material separately.

"The very early documents had things like, do you pay the surcharge on an ATM, or do you actually try to find the one that's your bank?" says Baumbach. "In another context, these things might feel inconsequential or small, but this is a movie where those things mattered."

For the Christmas sequence, Gerwig originally wrote a great deal more material, which ended up being compressed. "It was great. It was funny and touching," says Baumbach.

Gerwig still has the pages. "I continue to write, and I'd like to make an entire movie in Sacramento. I feel like one of the greatest gifts you have if you want to be a writer is that you're from somewhere," she says.

She also says she'd like to direct.

"I didn't know it was a generic thing for actors to want to direct," she laughs, and adds: "Really? Why would they say that? Directing is really hard!"

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